By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Nationally known stars are few and far between in the rural fields of the Midwest, but they are there if you know where to look.
Though he isn’t yet a household name around the world, Thad Fiscella, a native Ottumwan, is climbing the ladder of contemporary musical artists, and he could even pop up on your Pandora or iTunes stations.
Fiscella got his start in music while he was a student at Ottumwa High School, where he graduated from in 1997. He started taking drum and piano lessons in the fifth grade and studied music extensively while in high school, even taking some music history classes that usually weren’t offered to high school students. Those courses helped shape the style he plays with now, and his songs typically resemble, in some fashion, all of the music he studied while at OHS.
“That’s where I got my foundation and musical backgrounds from,” Fiscella said. “When I got to college, I was way ahead of other students.”
At the end of his high school years, he started focusing more on playing the piano while still being a full-time student. After he graduated from OHS, Fiscella attended Hannibal-LaGrange University, in Hannibal, Mo., where he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and music.
While he studied, he kept his focus on the piano, and in his faith, as his musical prowess started to show. Fiscella’s calming, heartfelt tone on the piano started to grab the ears of listeners, and in 2006 he had the opportunity to join Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, which has been rated as the best Internet station for solo piano.
As more and more people started to listen to his peaceful and passionate music, Fiscella started to get nominated for various awards, and even won a good deal of them. In 2009, he won Best Music for Animation at the Swan Lake Moving Images and Music Awards for his song "Gentle Whisper" off the album Vast. He was again nominated at Swan Lake the following year for his song "Forever."
From there, Fiscella’s music has taken off even further. He now has a Pandora Radio station and has joined iTunes to help spread his music to places around the world. His newest album, The Road Home, released in late 2012, was nominated for Whisperings Solo Piano Album of the Year 2012.
The song "First Dance," off The Road Home, was then nominated for a Hollywood Music and Media Award in 2012, and two more songs from the album, Beauty of Grace and Evening Song, were nominated at this year’s Hollywood Music and Media Awards.
The digital music age has helped his songs enjoy even more success on the Internet, especially at Pandora. Fiscella said one of his songs averages approximately 8,000 "likes" a month, meaning at least 8,000 people a month are listening to his music and showing that they like it.
“For someone from a little podunk town in Missouri to reach that many people through digital media is something I wouldn’t have dreamed of,” Fiscella said. “It’s an exciting time to be a musician.”
Although he has seen the rise in popularity of his music, Fiscella is still working hard to try and keep writing and composing. He released a Christmas album that hit stores yesterday, and he plans on having a new album out next summer.
Though he doesn’t generally tour very much, it is something he hopes to look into in the future. He also wants to dabble some into using music therapy, though that probably won’t come for a little bit. For now, look for Fiscella’s music in Ottumwa at the South HyVee and O’Hara’s Hardware.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh